It’s magic time: remembering jack lemmon


John Uhler Lemmon III, better known as Jack Lemmon, was born 80 years ago, February 8, 1925. From the beginning, his life has been anything but ordinary! In fact, he actually was born in the hospital elevator in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston and that is how the show began.

He attended school and then graduated from Harvard in 1947 and began to work as a piano player (which he learned by himself) in New York and then stayed in the arts by becoming an actor, without is father’s blessing but with a strong talent and an incredible sense of comedy.

His first movie was The Lady Takes a Sailor in 1949, but his real breakthrough and official debut was opposite Judy Holliday in the 1954 comedy It Should Happen to You. The next year, he won Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts.

Most of all, Jack Lemmon is remembered as Billy Wilder’ s favorite since they made seven movies together, and two of them became part of history: Some Like it Hot in 1959 with Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis; and The Apartment in 1960. He also has been nominated for both for a Best Actor Oscar.

Jack seemed to be very loyal as he did work several times with the same people. Besides Wilder, Jack acted in ten movies with actor and friend Walter Matthau. He even directed him in the only movie he ever did, the comedy Kotch, for which Matthau has been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his performance. They were very close and are even buried next to each other.

He is one of the few actors who achieved the rare double of winning Best Actor (for Save the Tiger) and Best Supporting Actor; Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Spacey and Denzel Washington being the other five who also won the two prizes. He also won two Palmes at the Cannes Film Festival for Some Like it Hot and Missing in 1982. He holds the record for most Golden Globe nominations for acting (22 total), including both actor and actresses.

He did work with many legendary leading ladies, among them Natalie Wood, Doris Day, Sophia Loren, Romy Schneider and so many more. He was a blessing to work with and a true believer in the magic of the movies. In fact, before each take he would say “It’s magic time”. That shows his joy, love and commitment to cinema.

 He helped a lot of actors to become better and famous like Kevin Spacey, whom dedicated his Oscar for American Beauty to him in 1999. He is the one who discovered Kevin Spacey after seeing him in a theatrical play. He would always have something nice to say about his co-workers and committed himself entirely to the art until the very end of his life: “I won’t quit until I get run over by a truck, a producer or a critic” he said.

He was married twice and had two children, one from each union: Chris Lemmon and Cynthia Stone. He admitted in 1994 during an interview with the Actors Studio that he has been an alcoholic and recovered from it during the sixties.

Jack Lemmon was very loved by the people in the movie business and they showed him their love many times. The best and most moving example is when Ving Rhames, in 1998, gave his Golden Globe Award to him and made him come on stage in front of all the audience.

He died of colon cancer on June 27, 2001. Today he would have been 80. Jack Lemmon is remembered as the great and amazing actor that he was, one of the “Happy Few”. 

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